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Five-year-old D.C. campus draws big names, student raves
STANFORD -- Stanford University students are accustomed to having important newsmakers drop by their satellite campus on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C.
So when Gro Harlem Brudtland, the Green Party prime minister of Norway, came to the nation's capital last quarter, it seemed only natural for the students to walk up and invite her over too.
"They even managed to rustle up flowers for her," marveled Stanford in Washington coordinator Jeanne Wahl Halleck. "She said if she had 45 minutes free, she would be happy to devote it to students who were interested in the environment."
Prime ministers and poets, Supreme Court justices, senators and presidential advisers - all have passed through the doors of Stanford in Washington since it opened five years ago this spring.
Together, they've provided more than 300 students with an intimate look at federal policymaking that would have been impossible at the home campus in California.
"Stanford in Washington was an incredible academic experience," said Sherri Wolson, a senior majoring in public policy who attended Stanford in Washington last fall and interned at the Office of Management and Budget.
"The opportunity to see a lot of high-level decision making taught me a lot that would have been difficult to learn in the classroom."
For Stanford President Emeritus Donald Kennedy, who first proposed the idea of a Washington campus in 1979 after two years as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, the program is the fulfillment of a dream.
"It's what I hoped it would be and more so," said Kennedy, who spent winter quarter at Stanford in Washington as faculty member in residence (see accompanying story)
"I recently ran into a former student, Leslie Hatamiya, who interned on Capitol Hill and did an unusual study of the efforts to provide reparation for Japanese Americans interned during World War II. She turned it into an honors thesis, and now the Stanford Press is going to publish it as a book [Righting a Wrong, scheduled for July 1993].
"Watching such fine scholarly work and service careers evolve from this experience is a special satisfaction to me."
Sound financial footing
Since March 1988, Stanford in Washington has been housed in the Robert M. and Anne T. Bass Center, a former hotel in Woodley Park, where students sleep, eat and attend classes.
The stately red brick building, which cost Stanford $3.5 million to purchase and another $700,000 to renovate, will soon be paid for in full, said retiring program director David J. Danelski.
Generous donations from Stanford and Washington-area alumni also have built up the program's endowment to more than $3 million, which now covers most of the program's budget.
"The program is now established, both academically and financially," said Danelski, a political science professor specializing in civil liberties. "It is a very rigorous program that challenges the students."
Each Stanford in Washington student participates in three main activities. The first, a weekly group seminar on public policymaking or economics, usually is taught by a visiting Stanford faculty member. Executive officers, members of Congress and other policymakers are frequent guest lecturers.
The second part, the theme tutorial, allows three to five students sharing similar policy interests to meet weekly with a Washington-based expert on the subject. Participants are required to write five eight-page papers, which they discuss during the tutorial sessions.
The third and key component of the Stanford program is the internship, an unpaid, 35-hours-a-week job that the director arranges for each student, depending on his or her interests. Often an honors thesis results from the work.
Over the years, Danelski estimates that he has made at least 500 internship contacts in Washington, ranging from editors at the Los Angeles Times Washington bureau to commissioners at the Securities and Exchange Commission to curators at the National Gallery of Art.
He works just as hard at selecting the students who will participate in the program. "The standards are very high," said Danelski, who flies to California six times a year to select students and interview them for internships.
"Among participants who have graduated recently, 25 percent were Phi Beta Kappa, and 70 percent graduated with honors or distinction or both." And, Danelski said, "Thirty-three percent are students of color."
Stanford in Washington students also come from a variety of political backgrounds. Although the majority are Democrats (as are students on the main campus), Republican students are becoming increasingly visible.
Senior Rick St. John, former editor of the conservative Stanford Review, attended Stanford in Washington last fall and interned in the office of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, doing background research for speeches and keeping the office clipping files.
Another recent Review editor, David Sacks, will be interning with former U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork as Bork works on a new book.
For some student participants, Stanford in Washington provides an opportunity to witness history. Senior David Campos began work for Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) of the Senate Judiciary Committee just as the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings were getting under way.
"I did whatever research was needed to help give the senator a strategy to deal with the problem," said Campos, who was given a pass to sit in on the hearings and is now writing an honors thesis with Danelski on his experience.
"Hearing inside information and reading drafts of speeches - and the changes made to those speeches - taught me a lot about the political process," he said.
"I always wanted to go into politics, but I had no idea what kind of specific issues I could deal with. Now I want to study constitutional law and how it applies in political contexts."
This winter, Stanford in Washington offered a new program, funded by the Summit Foundation and Mel and Joan Lane, for 20 undergraduates wishing to combine rigorous analysis of environmental problems with practical experience in public service.
Like the fall and spring programs, the environmental policy quarter featured a seminar, tutorials and internships.
Besides the Norwegian prime minister, guest speakers included former Colorado Sen. Tim Wirth, now undersecretary of global affairs in the State Department; Sen. Simpson, who is a member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works; and Katie McGinty, director of the White House Office of Environmental Policy.
The students in the program also met with Vice President Gore in his office, where they discussed environmental issues for almost an hour.
Among the places where Stanford students interned were the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Technology Assessment, the Council of Economic Advisers and the Environmental Defense Fund.
Karen Plaut, a civil engineering student from Blacksburg, Va., credits the program with giving her a broader picture of the policy issues surrounding her discipline.
Her internship, at the non-profit Environmental Defense Fund, allowed her to study a World Bank plan to provide funding for environmental protection in developing countries.
The work, she said, "really gave me a perspective into how things work, and at the dynamics between government and non- profit organizations. Talking to the people involved was a lot more educational than just reading about it from California."
It also influenced a change in her academic and career plans. "Originally, I thought of going straight for a degree in engineering," she said.
"Now I think I'll try for a joint degree in engineering and public policy. I still want the scientific and technical background, but I also want to be involved on the policy side of things, too."
A final important aspect of Stanford in Washington is the social and cultural experience it provides. Although the students have crushing workloads - 70 hours a week is not uncommon - they still find time to make friends and enjoy the city's nightlife, restaurants and excursions to local landmarks.
The recent inauguration festivities were a special highlight. Several students obtained tickets to the balls scattered throughout the city, and many more enjoyed the inaugural parade and swearing-in ceremony.
Students also enjoy Washington's vast cultural opportunities. In a program supported by donors, students attend operas, concerts, dance recitals, art exhibits and other events.
"On the night the students go the opera, they emerge like butterflies - some in formal dress," Danelski said. "They have a wonderful time together."
Danelski said that he will miss the excitement of Washington, D.C., when he retires this summer, to be succeeded in the fall by communication Professor Elie Abel.
While in Washington, D.C., Danelski wrote several articles on the Supreme Court and edited a casebook with Stanford law Professor William Cohen, Civil Liberties and Individual Rights, which Foundation Press will publish later this year.
He now plans to teach for a year at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., while he works on a book about the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, an alumnus of the college and native of the region.
It's the students whom he'll miss most though. "I've worked with very able students before, but this was the culmination of a satisfying teaching career," Danelski said. "It was teaching under the best of circumstances: bright students, small classes and superb colleagues."
In fact, he said, the students at Stanford in Washington were the best he has known in more than 30 years of teaching. "Many have already returned to Washington to work in public service positions," he said proudly.
"Within a decade or two, there will be hundreds of them in high-level positions in Washington, perhaps even in the White House."
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